Advertisement

God, Germs, and Evolution: Belief in Unobservable Religious and Scientific Entities in the U.S. and China

  • Jennifer M. CleggEmail author
  • Yixin K. Cui
  • Paul L. Harris
  • Kathleen H. Corriveau
Regular Article

Abstract

Adults in the U.S. and China were asked to make judgments about the existence of a variety of scientific and religious entities, including God, germs, and evolution. Overall, participants expressed more confidence in the existence of scientific as compared to religious entities. This differential confidence in the two domains emerged in China as well as in the U.S. Moreover, it emerged even when participants were questioned about items attracting a lower overall level of consensus. Nevertheless, the religious beliefs of individual participants moderated the degree of differentiation between scientific and religious entities. Adults reporting low levels of religiosity expressed greater belief in the existence of scientific than religious entities but adults reporting high levels of religiosity expressed equivalent levels of belief in the existence of each domain. This pattern emerged in both China and the U.S. Testimony about unobservable phenomena has a similar impact on adults’ pattern of beliefs across two historically distinct cultures.

Keywords

Belief Cross-cultural Religion Scientific entities 

Notes

Funding

This study was funded by the John Templeton Foundation (59820).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Clegg declares that she has no conflict of interest. Cui declares that she has no conflict of interest. Harris declares that he has no conflict of interest. Corriveau declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

References

  1. Aarnio, K., & Lindeman, M. (2005). Paranormal beliefs, education, and thinking styles. Personality and Individual Differences, 39(7), 1227–1236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aarnio, K., & Lindeman, M. (2007). Religious people and paranormal believers: alike or different? Journal of Individual Differences, 28(1), 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrett, D. W., Patock-Peckham, J. A., Hutchinson, G. H., & Nagoshi, C. T. (2005). Cognitive motivation and religious orientation. Personality and Individual Differences, 38(2), 461–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon's mechanical Turk: a new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(1), 3–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Corriveau, K. H., Chen, E. E., & Harris, P. L. (2015). Judgment about fact and fiction by children from religious and non-religious backgrounds. Cognitive Science, 39, 353–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Davoodi, T., Corriveau, K. H., & Harris, P. L. (2016). Distinguishing between realistic and fantastical figures in Iran. Developmental Psychology, 52(2), 221–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics (4th ed.). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  8. Harris, P. L., & Corriveau, K. H. (2014). Learning from testimony about religion and science. In S. Einav & E. Robinson (Eds.), Trust and skepticism: Children’s selective learning from testimony. UK: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  9. Harris, P. L., & Koenig, M. A. (2006). Trust in testimony: how children learn about science and religion. Child Development, 77(3), 505–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harris, P. L., Pasquini, E. S., Duke, S., Asscher, J. J., & Pons, F. (2006). Germs and angels: the role of testimony in young children's ontology. Developmental Science, 9(1), 76–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Harris, P. L., Koenig, M. A., Corriveau, K. H., & Jaswal, V. K. (2018). Cognitive foundations of learning from testimony. Annual Review of Psychology, 69, 251–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Inglehart, R., & Norris, P. (2004). Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Järnefelt, E., Ford Canfield, C., & Kelemen, D. (2015). The divided mind of a disbeliever: intuitive beliefs about nature as purposefully created among different groups of non-religious adults. Cognition, 140, 72–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lane, J. D., & Harris, P. L. (2014). Confronting, representing, and believing counterintuitive concepts: navigating the natural and the supernatural. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(2), 144–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G., & Howe, P. (2013). Global warming’s six Americas, September 2012. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.Google Scholar
  16. Miller, J. D., Scott, E. C., & Okamoto, S. (2006). Public acceptance of evolution. Science, 313(5788), 765–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rottman, J., Zhu, L., Wang, W., Seston Schillaci, R., Clark, K. J., & Kelemen, D. (2017). Cultural influences on the teleological stance. Evidence from China. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 7, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schachner, A., Zhu, L., Li, J., & Kelemen, D. (2017). Is the bias for function-based explanations culturally universal? Children from China endorse teleological explanations of natural phenomena. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 157, 29–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Shenhav, A., Rand, D. G., & Greene, J. D. (2012). Divine intuition: cognitive style influences belief in god. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 423–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shtulman, A. (2013). Epistemic similarities between students' scientific and supernatural beliefs. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(1), 199–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shtulman, A. (2017). Scienceblind: Why our intuitive theories about the world are so often wrong. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  22. Stark, R., & Liu, E. Y. (2011). The religious awakening in China. Review of Religious Research, 52, 282–289.Google Scholar
  23. WIN-Gallup International. (2016). Global index of religiosity and atheism. Retrieved from http://www.wingia.com/en/services/end_of_year_survey_2016/end_of_year_survey_2016_world_map/10/57/China/
  24. Yang, F. (2011). Religion in China: Survival and revival under communist rule. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Yang, F., & Hu, A. (2012). Mapping Chinese folk religion in mainland China and Taiwan. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 51, 505–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ying, F. (1997). A reading of the mutual collaboration between religion and Chinese socialism (in Chinese). Hong Kong Journal a/Social Sciences, 9, 53–83.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Wheelock College of Education and Human DevelopmentBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Graduate School of EducationHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations